Sunday, August 29, 2010

what we have here is a failure to communicate

Last night, I was at Harrah's Marina casino in Atlantic City. More specifically, their Waterfront Buffet. Harrah's buffet is a step up from most other buffets in Atlantic City casinos, with different stations featuring a mini-bounty of meat and vegetable dishes alongside many offerings from different international cuisines. Of course, it is all capped with a diabetic-inducing spread of rich and tempting desserts and the encouragement to sample two or three. It pales in comparison to its Las Vegas counterparts but, considering Atlantic City is a ninety minute drive from my front door, I can't complain.

Last night, after finishing the salad, sushi and Asian noodles from trip number one to the buffet, I was ready for the conglomerate of food I would soon call "my main course". I grabbed a dishwasher-fresh plate from the stack and went to peruse the evening's fare. As a vegetarian, my choices are somewhat limited in the meat-heavy provisions, but I can always find more than enough to fill my platter and satisfy my appetite. As with most buffets, enormous crab legs and other shellfish are quite popular and are presented as such. While I do eat fish, I also keep kosher, so crab and its shell-encased buddies are off my list. Cod and tuna are cool and Harrah's salmon, open-grilled before your eyes, is pretty tasty.

As I approached the Italian section of the buffet, laden with antipasto, Sicilian style pizza and a sausage-and-peppers mixture, I saw a tray labeled "Basa Oreganto". Beneath the folded cardboard sign were neat little lumps of white, ribbed, plump ovals — each dusted with tiny, green flecks and dripping with translucent melted butter. I stared at the dish, puzzled by its appearance. I examined the identifying sign again. I don't speak any foreign language (except a few words in Spanish and "Excuse me, where is Danny?" in Hebrew), but I concluded, by the green substance on the food and the familiarity of the words, that oreganto meant it has oregano in it. But, basa was not recognizable to me. I spotted a worker in the preparation area behind the buffet itself. He was unwrapping something or chopping something or checking some warming equipment — something food-preparation related. I cleared my throat to get his attention and motioned him over to me.

"Hi," I began, "could you tell me what is basa oreganto, please?" "Eh?," was his response. I gestured toward the food in question. "Over there," I again explained, "the dish that says basa oreganto..." He cut me off mid-sentence. "Pasta? You want pasta?," he asked and he looked past the basa oreganto toward the cooked-to-order pasta section. "No, basa," I said, slightly raising my voice above the ambient noise, "What is it?" "Pasta?," he repeated, his gaze at me turning to disbelief, "You know...like spaghetti." I felt myself involuntarily roll my eyes. (For Christ's sake, I thought, I know what fucking pasta is! Does this guy really think I couldn't identify spaghetti?) "No, come here", I said, as I guided him to the object of my inquiry. "This!", I announced, as I pointed directly at the green-speckled food. "Oh, it's fish," he finally answered. "Okay. Thank you.," I said. Unsure of basa's kosher status, I walked away without taking a piece. A woman holding a plate at chin-level, sparsely arranged with a small clump of mashed potatoes and a single thin slice of roast beef, stood nearby. With her face screwed-up in a perplexed knot, she interrogated me. "What is it?" she whined, drawing each word out into too many syllables. "Fish," I answered as I scooted past her. "Oooooooh," she yodeled, "I thought it was cauliflower."

Who gives a fuck what you thought it was. Where's the fucking ice cream?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

maybe I'm amazed

You think what your kid does is amazing? Look! Look at how he walks! He's amazing! Look! Look! He's pointing at that bird! Isn't he amazing? He just kicked that ball! He's amazing! Look! Look! He drew a picture of a flower! He is amazing! Look! He's eating a piece of bread! He's amazing!

Amazing? Those things? Are you kidding me? Those are the things that every kid does! I did them. You did them. Neil Armstrong did them. The pope did them. Brad Pitt did them. Jeffrey Dahmer did them. Everyone. Everyone who has ever lived on this earth has walked and pointed to something and kicked something and drew something and ate something. Amazing? That word is tossed about so often and so freely. And wrongly.

Recently, I read a story of a doctor who was treating a patient. His patient was a pregnant woman whose unborn child developed a tumor that was detected through a routine ultrasound examination. The doctor was able to open up the woman's womb, remove the tumor from the fetus and replace the fetus back into the womb. The woman carried the baby full-term and it was delivered without a hitch. That, my friends, is amazing. Your kid picking up an earthworm or dragging a fucking red crayon across a piece of paper or bringing home an "A" on his first-grade math test is not amazing.

There are 6.8 billion people on this planet. You think the things your kid does are amazing? Think again.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

that guy

Do you know that guy? Of course you do. You've seen him before. I see him everywhere, and I know you do too. I've seen him in the mornings when I'm waiting for the train that takes me to work. Then, he's on the train. There's several of him on the train as a matter of fact. He's got his bag on the seat next to him, not allowing anyone to share his seat. He also eating something big and sloppy and totally inappropriate for the morning commute.

I've seen him on vacation, unhappily accompanying the family that he hates through a theme park or other tourist destination. He is sad. Sad about being there. Sad about being there with his family. Sad about the hand life has dealt him.

I've seen him at the supermarket, wanting to purchase that giant bag of barbecue potato chips, only to be told by his wife that he cannot get them. "They are not good for you," she berates him, as she drops a half-gallon of gourmet specialty ice cream into their shopping cart.

I've seen him in a restaurant, sitting at a table while his kids scream and yell and climb under the table and wander off to stand and stare next to someone else's table. Then they announce the need to visit the bathroom. His wife won't move her ass, insisting "I took them to the bathroom last time. Now it's your turn." He just wants to order three hot fudge sundaes and eat them at another table. In another restaurant.

I've seen him at my job, hunched over a desk, fighting back sleep, keying wrong information into a spreadsheet. He is neither qualified for nor pleased to be doing his job. And he lies to his family about what sort of job he has and his level of importance within the company.

I know you've seen that guy. Just look around. He's there.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

uh-oh

In January, a coworker (the woman who creates all deliverables electronic* and maintains the company website) reported that she was expecting — as in "a baby". Of course, everyone in the department was happy for her. A week or so after the initial springing of the joyous news, it was understood that I, as her regular back-up for days off and vacations, would be taking over her responsibilities when she goes out on maternity leave. I, as the resident graphic designer with a smattering of HTML and web experience, was the logical choice. So, in the coming months, some time was set aside each week for me to sit with — we'll call her "Jane", because that's her name — Jane, while she instructed me in the "ins and outs" of the tedium and minutiae that is a sprawling and cumbersome company website. I feverishly scribbled incomprehensible notes that I knew, months down the road, I'd never be able to decipher. Page upon page of my legal pad were filled with a secret code of carats and dashes and chevrons and brackets, as Jane expounded on the wonders of tags and file hierarchy.

Suddenly, as a precaution, Jane, although still able to work, was confined to bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy. She was able to work from home and, however awkward, we were able to continue my training over the phone. Then one day, two weeks ago, I received the email I had dreaded. Jane announced that she was entering the hospital for the purpose of inducing her labor. It was sink-or-swim time for ol' Josh Pincus. I was flying solo, brother. I was fucked.

My first full week on my own went pretty well. In addition to my own work, I completed those assignments originally meant for Jane. I created projects based on templates that Jane had previously set up. I repeatedly referred to my illegible notes. (They turned out to be pretty helpful. I wished I had taken notes like those in high school.) As Friday approached, my head reeled, but my work dwindled to a manageable amount.

On Monday, it was more of the same. I edited pages, changing a number here or a phrase there. I created emailed invitations and entered additions to staff biographies. This afternoon, I was creating a routine page for a specific event. I carefully followed my step-by-step directions, checking and double-checking each operation with every new step. I clicked the big “upload” button and, a few “ERROR” messages later, the company’s intranet ceased to function. I stared in disbelief as my computer’s screen stared blankly back at me. "Internet Explorer cannot display that page" was the message displayed each time I meticulously entered and re-entered the intranet’s URL. I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and, although I was reluctant (and actually forbidden), I sent a text to Jane. It read “Uh oh. Please call me.”  What seemed like a lifetime later, but was only five or so minutes, my phone rang signifying Cavalry Jane coming to my rescue. She was kind and sympathetic. She coolly asked, “Ugh! What did you do?”  I explained every move I made. Every click, every keystroke, every message received and a timeline for all. Jane accessed the company’s network from home and was able to mirror the programs I was using. After a few exasperated moans and groans, she told me to call the company IT department. She determined it was most likely an internal server problem and it happened — coincidentally — at the same time I was making intranet edits. And best of all, it was not my fault. I emitted a huge sigh of relief.

Oh, I asked about the baby. I’m not a total asshole.

*how's THAT for corporate jargon

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

no, I don't love your dog

I have been pet-free for three years. Before that, I had always had at least one cat. Sometimes, more than one. Cats are really good pets for people who don't always want a pet. They are affectionate when you want them to be and when those times come when you don't want to be bothered, they are happy to oblige. As far as a cat is concerned, people only exist to open cans. Yeah, once in a while a person can scratch a cat's head, but they are primarily a can opener.

Dogs, on the other hand, are honest-to-goodness, high-maintenance pets. Dogs need to be walked and played with and, because they love to roll around in their own shit, they need to be bathed. (Cats take care of that on their own, without human assistance.)

Dog owners are high-maintenance, too. Dog owners treat their dogs like most humans treat their children (the ones that they love, anyway). And because dog owners love their dogs, everyone must love their dogs. You must! How could you not?

I have lost track of how many times I have been accosted by a dog on the sidewalk — all muddy and slobbery and smelly — only to have its owner assure me that "He's friendly!" or "He won't bite!". Well, I don't want to be friends with your fucking dog. I have visited dog-owner friends who refused to pull their over-curious canine away from me, while laughing and explaining, "He probably smells your cat on you." Well. I smell his excrement on him, so please get him the fuck off of me. I don't love your dog. Only you love your dog.

My wife had a few dogs growing up and has brought up the subject infrequently in the twenty-eight years we have known each other. Fairly late one evening, my wife and I were driving home in a treacherously heavy rainstorm. A block or so from our house, I could make out a figure in the downpour. It was a man dressed in a rain slicker with a waterlogged hat drooping on his head. In one hand, he held an open umbrella. In the other, he gripped a leash. At the end of that leash was a soaked dog, its sodden fur matted against its body. The man dutifully followed the dog as he slowly and deliberately sniffed the ground looking for a place to crap — or possibly for nothing in particular. I pointed out the fogged window of our car to the sorry-looking sap with the dog and I said to my wife, "Y'know why we don't have a dog? Because if we did, that poor asshole would be me."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

my day so far...

I woke up at 11 a.m. today and, as per my usual routine, I checked my email. I received an invitation to contribute to this new blog from another artist named Patrick. Almost three years ago, Patrick and I participated in a "Portrait Exchange". We exchanged photographs and drew each other. That exchange was documented HERE on my blog. Shortly afterwards, Patrick seemed to have stepped off the face of the earth, until just a few weeks ago, he pops up on another illustration blog (to which I also contribute) called Monday Artday. Monday Artday, coincidentally, is barely hanging on as a viable and relevant outlet for artists, since its curator has been MIA since some surgery several months ago. So, I suppose, that's how Patrick found me again.

And here I am, being asked to chronicle the (wonderful) everyday moments that do not usually get noticed. Well, after checking my email this morning, I was really jarred awake by my neighbor's construction team drilling and sawing something out in her backyard. I'm hoping it's a taller fence, so I never have to see that lunatic again. She has been the bane of my existence for the eleven years she has been my neighbor.

There... how's that for documenting the mundane? Not that wonderful, but neither is life.